|Andrea Cohen, photo by Francesca G. Bewer|
Andrea Cohen is the author of the new poetry collection Nightshade. Her other books include Unfathoming and Furs Not Mine, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New Yorker and The Threepenny Review.
Q: Over how long a period did you write the poems in Nightshade?
A: I think these poems were written over about a year and a half.
Q: Why did you choose Nightshade--also the title of one of the poems--as the collection's title? What does it signify for you?
A: For me, the idea of, or the fact of that bittersweetness of days seemed pretty emblematic of these poems. Of course, one is lucky to have a bittersweet life. The only probable alternative would be bitterness entire.
Q: In a review in the Washington Independent Review of Books, Grace Cavalieri writes of Nightshade, "Each page has either a conundrum or a puzzle at the center, as Cohen tries to light a dark world by strengthening thought and stripping words to their hidden literal meanings." What do you think of that assessment?
A: I think it’s a thoughtful consideration. And I suspect that trying to assess others’ assessments of one’s own poems is probably folly.
Q: How did you decide on the order in which the poems would appear in the collection?
A: I have a Ouija board. Or I don’t, but wish I did.
The real answer? I just look at the poems and try to imagine how they might connect with each other.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I just wake up and see what happens. I mean, I wake up, I sit down, and I write.
There is also coffee involved. A lot of coffee.
And the dog. Asking questions.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I can recommend a couple books that are just out. One is Jane Mead’s To the Wren: Collected & New Poems 1991-2019. Sadly, it’s the last book we have from Jane. And one other is James Arthur’s The Suicide’s Son. And if you get the chance to hear James read, take it.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Andrea Cohen.